Developing a deeper understanding of public awareness of climate change, human impacts and the value and management of marine and coastal ecosystems

Developing a deeper understanding of public awareness of climate change, human impacts and the value and management of marine and coastal ecosystems

Marine and coastal ecosystems are important for hundreds of millions of people worldwide, providing food and support livelihoods and ways of life. But they increasingly face a variety of pressures, including climate change, which means we need to make sure we look after them better. Policy makers are increasingly aware of the importance of ocean health, but MaCoBioS wanted to better understand what people around the world think about marine and coastal ecosystems, the effects of climate change and human actions on them, and how we should manage them. This is because we think that understanding people’s views is critical as it can influence decision-making on the actions to take. MaCoBioS therefore conducted an online survey between November 2021 and February 2022 to try to understand these views.

We had 709 respondents from 42 countries, and most people expressed concern about climate change and thought society should be doing more to act on it. Our respondents placed high value on marine and coastal ecosystems for human wellbeing, climate regulation, and for their role in addressing climate change. They also thought they were essential for supporting local and global economies. Climate change was ranked as one of the top three threats that  marine and coastal ecosystems face, alongside plastic pollution and fishing or harvesting of marine and / or coastal life. Most people supported enhancing and preserving marine and coastal ecosystems as a key focus of policies that address climate change, nature conservation and sustainable development.

MaCoBioS is very grateful to everyone who completed our survey. In the interest of open access data and data transparency, MaCoBioS has published the “Survey data of public awareness on climate change and the value of marine and coastal ecosystems” in the journal Data in Brief. It can be accessed here. By making this data publicly available, MaCoBioS hopes that others interested in the governance of social-ecological marine and coastal ecosystems, and in understanding public perceptions regarding management of marine and coastal spaces can also benefit from these data.

A summary of the results of our survey is available to download as an infographic in English, French, Italian and Spanish. Please choose your language below.


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Identifying opportunities for future monitoring, research and management of Bonaire’s National Marine Park

Identifying opportunities for future monitoring, research and management of Bonaire’s National Marine Park

Twenty-nine marine scientists and practitioners came together to share their thoughts on the status of Bonaire’s coral reefs and to explore current and future monitoring, research and management strategies for the Bonaire National Marine Park.

The MaCoBioS team was excited to be in Bonaire last week to run a workshop on “Science-driven management in the Bonaire National Marine Park: Actions, Challenges and Opportunities”. The workshop, held on 26th January 2023, was co-organised with Stichting Nationale Parken Bonaire (STINAPA), the organisation that manages Bonaire’s nature parks on behalf of the Bonairian government.

Our goal was to bring together a diversity of scientists and practitioners working to monitor and/or manage marine life in the Bonaire National Marine Park to discuss ecosystem condition and reasons for this, explore gaps in scientific monitoring, and identify opportunities for future collaborations.

This interactive workshop had a great turnout, gathering 29 participants, including MPA practitioners, scientists and representatives of local government, non-governmental organisations, and local fishermen. This group was small enough to encourage dialogue and participation but large enough to be inclusive and have meaningful discussions. We started the day with presentations from STINAPA, MaCoBioS (University of Exeter and Wageningen University), Reef Renewal, Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire and Mangrove Maniacs. This presented the opportunity for MaCoBioS to share results from some of the fieldwork we have been undertaking and a chance to have lively discussions with local stakeholders about the threats facing marine ecosystems and what science we need to better inform management of the marine park.

Conversations highlighted the challenging outlook for coral reef ecosystems, particularly under climate change. The most important threats people felt coral reefs faced were from water quality, coastal development, invasive species, and extreme weather. Minimising direct impacts from human activities was considered by all to be key to improving the resilience of reefs, helping them have the best outlook possible. Overall it was felt that management efforts through the long-standing Bonaire National Marine Park have helped Bonaire’s coral reefs to remain among the healthiest in the Caribbean. However, all agreed that monitoring and evaluating actions centered around collaboration, partnerships and local engagement were key to inform dynamic and adaptive response strategies to future challenges. There was a clear consensus that for science and management to “make the dream work” it was critical to embed Bonairian culture and locals into science and management to ensure a shared vision and enhance capacity.

We learnt a lot from everyone who joined us from across Bonaire and would like to thank all those who made our workshop a success by enthusiastically sharing their ideas and experiences.

Text by Bethan O’Leary

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Celebrating MaCoBioS’s Women in Science

Celebrating MaCoBioS’s Women in Science

If Science is what you like to do, go for it, society and nature need you!

Within MaCoBioS we are very fortunate to have terrific women scientists contributing to our project. These women are in various stages of their academic career and have been essential to the progress we have achieved within MaCoBioS so far. To celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science this year, we would like to share their thoughts on what they love about being a scientist and their aspirations and messages for women and girls that want to work in Science in the future.

The best part of being a scientist

One of the most exciting parts of doing science is trying to find answers to different questions and working in a collaborative way. It is a questioning process and we share this process with a lot of different people, who nurture it. Interactions between scientists are particularly encouraged in the MaCoBioS project, as it is based on the collaborative work of interdisciplinary teams of 16 different partners.

“Science is about life-long learning and staying relevant, great opportunities for making a real difference, solving challenges, communicating technical science to stakeholders.” Hazel Oxenford​, Professor of Marine Ecology and Fisheries, University of The West Indies.

“I really enjoy contributing with my own perspectives on issues regarding social justice to the MaCoBioS tasks and being able to understand other scientists’ perceptions, ideas and views of the problems coming from their own background. I feel that in science bringing in different perspectives is very enriching and quite fun!” Fabiola Espinoza, PhD Candidate, Lund University.

Scientific work gives us a systematic and practical way to understand the world around us based on observation and fact. It goes hand in hand with logic and reason. This is powerful, because it gives us a framework to address uncertainties, think through problems and make decisions. Through science, we can contribute to solving the most pressing environmental and socio-economic challenges with the final aim of helping society.

Some of our experts in the field (from left to right): Dr Cindy Cornet, Dr Silvia de Juan, Dr Géraldine Pérez

MaCoBioS is a great opportunity and an exciting challenge as it allows us to be part of a brilliant community of scientists that share knowledge and push towards new insights. We contribute to knowledge on marine ecosystem functioning, essential to conservation, and have great networking opportunities. 

The future of women in science

Generally inclusiveness in science for all minorities remains a challenge. In too many research institutions, permanent positions with high responsibilities are still too often offered to men while women are often in precarious positions. Women still hold less than 20% of senior roles in universities and research centers, for example. As MaCoBioS we need to continue pushing for equal opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. This still requires huge efforts; a small part of it is recognizing work done by the female and minority groups in the scientific community, promoting and rewarding those achievements.

Some of our experts on the international scene (from left to right): Emily Boyd - Professor at Lund University, Patricia Ricard - President of the the Paul Ricard Oceanographic Institute

Nonetheless, we hope for a bright and promising future ahead with increasing opportunities for women to be heard and make the world a better place for us all. We have advanced a lot in supporting and encouraging participation of women in science over the last years. We are increasingly leaving behind misconceptions that women are unsuited to science or traditional perceptions of scientists being male and dressed in lab coats. But we need to go a step further. In particular, we need to support women to take key roles in decision making in research (funding or leadership). This should be done not only by raising the quota of women participating in research projects, but by spreading awareness on gender equality and encouraging women to innovate and lead. Many new projects such as MaCoBioS present a large number of brilliant women scientists with diverse backgrounds.

Our message to girls that want to become scientists

Science is as diverse as the people who work within it covering topics commonly studied at school such as biology and chemistry through to social and political science and everything in between. Increasingly the lines between these topics are blurred and they integrate all sorts of methods from fieldwork to mathematics and computer science. There are also all kinds of scientists, if you are curious and always looking to learn more you can definitely become one. Continue to be curious, anytime, everywhere, always! Let your eyes and mind always be surprised by new discoveries and experiences. This will allow you to be always eager for new knowledge.

“Science is a beautiful path but one that isn’t easy and you need to be prepared to overcome many obstacles on your way. Sometimes you will succeed but others you won´t. The key is perseverance and resilience.” Dr Gema Casal, Postdoctoral Researcher, Maynooth University

However, becoming a scientist requires a lot of work and a bit of luck. You need to be rigorous, patient and surrounded by the right people who will support you not only in your research work, but also emotionally and financially. Here are a few tips from our experience: 1. Network from the start – opportunities come to those who are known! 2. Think local – Find your local issues, team up with experts around the corner, and take on tractable research questions. 3. Keep up and constantly improve your maths and communication skills – transferable skills are key!

“Becoming a scientist is tough no matter your gender, but still even more so for women, BUT if it is your dream, don’t let gender matters or anything else hold you back and go for it!” Dr. Cindy Cornet, Research Fellow, University of Portsmouth

If science is your passion you need to follow it, no matter if your field is filled with mostly men or older generations. Try to convert these challenges into opportunities, and to be a source of inspiration embracing your femininity, knowledge and skills. Be strong and brave, work in teams, fulfill your ideas and work for achieving your objectives and goals. Believe in yourself, be curious and explore areas that interest you.  Especially, don’t hold back, don’t doubt yourself. Go ahead, we need you!

Find out more about our team of amazing women by checking out our ‘Meet our Experts’  page.

Text by: Elena Allegri, Mialy Andriamahefazafy, Emily Boyd, Gema Casal, Cindy Cornet, Karima Degia, Fabiola Espinoza, Catarina Fonseca, Elisa Furlan, Silvia de Juan, Alicia N’Guetta, Géraldine Pérez, Bethan O’Leary, Hazel Oxenford, Patricia Ricard, Louisa Wood

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How to bridge the Science-Policy-Society gaps to better protect and manage marine ecosystems?

How to bridge the Science-Policy-Society gaps to better protect and manage marine ecosystems?

We live on a blue planet, where 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by oceans, lakes and rivers. There is now an increasing interest for our oceans as evidenced by various international initiatives such as the adoption of a UN Sustainable Development Goal dedicated to the ocean. However, there is a lot to be done and catch up on because the marine environment has for a long time been a stepchild in environmental policies and conservation. The impacts of human activities on marine ecosystems are not visible to most people and therefore have not entered the public awareness to the same extent as the degradation of terrestrial ecosystems or the loss of animals or plants on land. What’s more, the marine environment still has many blank spots for science, but its importance for society is undeniably huge. A large source of the protein consumed by people comes from the sea and the oceans support the livelihoods of billions of people around the world. Oceans regulate the global climate by absorbing vast quantities of carbon and they are the largest producer of oxygen.

Fishing boat and coasts in St Lucia. Photo credit: Fabiola Espinoza Cordova

In MaCoBioS, a consortium of international researchers from many different scientific disciplines seek to answer some urgent questions, regarding the impacts of human activities on marine ecosystem functions, the supply of ecosystem services from these, and the potential of solutions that combine better marine management and protection with the mitigation of environmental changes, foremost adaptation to clime change. Yet, for scientific knowledge and understanding to be taken up, policy makers and environmental managers have to be included throughout the process. Science communication must ensure that results and evidence-based recommendations reach this important target group, who use this knowledge to formulate policies and plans that in turn contribute to improve marine management and conservation.

Unfortunately, while this sounds quite straightforward, the reality is more complex and challenging. Mobilizing different kinds of knowledge (for instance local and indigenous knowledges) in order to improve the management of marine resources requires pluralistic and interdisciplinary approaches. Science needs to interrogate prevailing power asymmetries within and among existing institutions, question its own scientific assumptions, and the values and interests that are the result of the power asymmetries and assumptions.

In addition, the language of science and the language of policy are rarely compatible, finding a common denominator and being able to speak to one another is therefore of utmost importance. Here, science and scientists have an important task – learning to speak the language of policy and practitioners, that overcomes historically diverging views and interests. Moreover, although science is complex in itself, providing evidence-based recommendations must account for the messiness of the policy process. At each phase of this process different short and long term economic, social and political interests and power clash with each other. Thus, policies may either be compromises of different trade-offs or benefit specific sectorial interests first and foremost.  

Within MaCoBioS we seek to provide evidence-based guidance for marine policy formulation and innovative research pathways. We do this because we want to support policymakers in developing cost-effective strategies in order to improve marine and coastal ecosystem management and protection. Doing so is particularly important in the light of the ongoing and expected climate changes. MaCoBioS partners are combining ecological and social science research carried out in three regions (the Caribbean, the western Mediterranean and the North Sea) in order to find out how environmental change affects not just the marine and coastal ecosystems, but also people and communities depending on these.

Getting a more complete picture of the interconnectedness between society and the marine and coastal ecosystems, and understanding how dependent communities are on ecosystem services allows for the formulation of better and more equitable policies. Understanding the societal dimensions and accounting for these in policies and management plans supports their implementation and uptake, reducing potential resistance by people and communities.

Illustration of sea level rise in France. Photo credit: Rémy Simide

For instance, in Barbados we seek to better study how power dynamics and different ways policy makers understand adaptation to climate change influence policy and planning. Moreover, what does it mean for social justice and environmental integrity when actions are implemented on the ground? Understanding how the adaptation challenge is problematized and what processes shape who decides, who is vulnerable, whose values counts and what interventions to prioritize is key if we want to translate scientific knowledge into transformative change.

In Martinique, we apply a gender and intersectional lens and focus on understanding the impacts of climate change (including aspects of loss and damage) on marine and coastal ecosystems and people’s livelihoods. Here, we emphasize local knowledge, the perception of risk, as well as dependencies, needs, and aspirations of communities relying on marine and coastal ecosystem services in order to support inclusive and informed decisions made under the uncertainty posed by climate change.

Text by Torsten Krause, Alicia N’guetta and Fabiola Espinoza Córdova

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Exploring Loss and Damage to People and Society from Climate Change impacts on Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Services

Exploring Loss and Damage to People and Society from Climate Change impacts on Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Services

Over the past decades, climate-related hazards, for instance rapid onset events such as floods and droughts, have increased in their occurrence and severity. Simultaneously, slow-onset processes such as sea-level rise and salinization continue unabated, leading to cascading impacts for ecosystems and people. Moreover, the severity of climate change will affect people’s livelihoods, particularly in low-lying areas and Small Island States (SIDS). Given these continuous pressures and disruptions on livelihoods, various people and institutions are discussing and implementing different adaptation strategies. However, adaptation strategies can be sometimes misguided and add negative consequences on current human and natural systems vulnerabilities. Sometimes adaptation to climate change impacts is no longer possible, leading to loss and damage to people and society.

The concept of loss and damage was first mentioned in 2013 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage (WIM). ‘Loss and damage’ does not have a consistent definition, but frequently refers to the unavoidable impacts of climate change due, for instance, to biophysical, social, financial, and technical constraints and the lack of consideration of context-specificities. Loss and damage are characterized as either economic (tradable in the market), such as physical assets, or non-economic (not tradable in the market), such as cultural heritage or ecosystem health and services. For instance, climate induced losses of ecosystem services that coastal communities rely on for their livelihoods and food security, may lead to the displacement of people, resulting in the loss of their identity, heritage, and local knowledge.

There is a need to better understand climate change impacts on ecosystems and their services in order to address loss and damage to people and society.  Within the MACOBIOS project, the focus is on understanding and increasing knowledge about the relationship between climate change, biodiversity, and marine and coastal ecosystem services to support better informed and inclusive decisions, despite the uncertainty posed by climate change impacts.

Through a gender and intersectional lens, I investigate the climate change impact on marine and coastal livelihoods and the limits of adaptation in Martinique. My research pays particular attention to people’s relationship with the ocean and marine and coastal ecosystem services (past, present, and future aspirations) as I seek to understand people’s values and use of these services for their livelihoods and well-being. Furthermore, I explore how people perceive the risks posed by climate change, how they are affected by climate change and why do they act in a specific way to climate change impacts and the resulting loss and damages. This also means considering social group specificities and institutions influencing people’s adaptative capacity.

Consideration of coastal communities’ heterogeneities, dependencies, needs, and priorities is crucial to ensure that science and adaptation policies and projects contribute to minimize and avoid loss and damage. My research will provide a better understanding of adaptation limits and how to address loss and damage induced by climate change on people and societies.  To achieve “The Science We Need For The Ocean We Want” as part of the UN Ocean Decade we must ensure that communities relying on coastal and marine ecosystem services are fully considered in our projects to ensure a more sustainable future.

Description: Itsamia, Moheli, Comoros. Photo credit: Alicia N’guetta


My research also takes place in the context of a Lund University project called Recasting the Disproportionate Impacts of Climate Change Extremes (DICE) that focus on advancing the conceptualisation, measurement, and governance of loss and damage. To learn more please click here.
To learn more please read the article “Climate Change and Ecosystem Services – Implications for Present and Future Loss and Damage to People and  Society” in EcoMagazine-Rising Seas Edition 2021 here.

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Understanding power and different worldviews for achieving more just and sustainable coastal adaptation outcomes

Understanding power and different worldviews for achieving more just and sustainable coastal adaptation outcomes

Adaptation has become the centre of Small Island States’ (SIS) political response to cope with the impacts of climate change. Efforts to mainstream coastal adaptation policy among different sectors and improved access to international funds to meet adaptation costs have led to an increase in the number of adaptation projects. For SIS that depend on marine and coastal ecosystems, some interventions such as the construction of coastal protective structures and mangrove and coral restoration are increasingly being promoted as adaptation strategies. However, whilst this should be a cause for celebration, there is growing evidence that current interventions are failing to reduce the vulnerability of those people who are supposed to be supported by these very adaptation actions. But why are current efforts not necessarily reducing vulnerability? And what can we do to overcome these challenges so as to produce outcomes that are just and sustainable?
Fishers in Saint Lucia Photo
credit: Fabiola Espinoza

In this special issue of Eco Magazine -Rising Seas 2021, I unravel these questions by highlighting the role of power dynamics and worldviews in the governance of climate change adaptation. It is common that adaptation goals and priorities are set up and decided upon by people in positions of power, either intentionally, due to political decisions, or inadvertently, due to poorly designed and executed interventions. In doing so, the intended beneficiaries are often left out. For example, the construction of infrastructure as a flood protection strategy has proven to be effective in reducing the vulnerability of SIS to sea level rise, but is frequently implemented by those who have the power to do so, with a particular vision and interest in mind. This affects access to key resources and livelihoods, typically impacting groups who already tend to be marginalized. In this sense, if scientists and policy-makers truly want to reframe adaptation interventions, we must understand how these interventions are interconnected with the wider processes of political and social dynamics. Not only must we must understand ‘who decides what’, but also how values, interests and desired goals are weighted in decision making, and how this can affect the success of adaptation interventions. As the latest IPPC report highlights, with ocean warming, sea level rise and other changes to marine and coastal ecosystems expected to continue in the coming years, coastal adaptation as a policy response to climate change must be prioritized, now more than ever. While this is an indisputable challenge for policy makers and coastal communities, by considering how power and different values, beliefs and worldviews influence the design and institutional interventions of adaptation, we can use this opportunity to rethink current approaches and push for fairer and more equitable pathways.

To read the full article “More than Fixed Solutions: Power and Different Worldviews in Framing Coastal Adaptation Actions” in EcoMagazine-Rising Seas 2021 click here.

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Take part in MaCoBioS – connecting people with Nature-Based Solutions

Take part in MaCoBioS – connecting people with Nature-Based Solutions

People, science and marine and coastal ecosystems

People are a critical part of the natural world. Wherever we look, people have shaped ecosystems and rely on the natural world to provide them with resources or protect them. But marine and coastal ecosystems, such as coral reefs, mangroves, salt marshes and kelp forests, are increasingly under pressure from human actions and climate change and its associated effects. Reducing these pressures and improving the health of these ecosystems requires science to inform management. Science, in turn, must be informed by the diverse uses and impacts of people on nature and their differing societal and cultural values to make sure solutions are feasible and respond to the needs of people and nature.

The importance of marine and coastal ecosystems the wellbeing, prosperity and survival of humans and nature is now well-recognised. They provide us with food and other materials. We use them for recreational activities such as snorkelling and diving. They are of spiritual and cultural importance for local communities. They help us with wastewater treatment, erosion prevention, flood control, carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation, amongst a range of other benefits. Ensuring better use and protection of such valuable ecosystems is therefore critical.

MaCoBioS is working across six marine and coastal ecosystems in a range of oceanic/cold, temperate and tropical environments
Benefits provided by nature are known as ‘ecosystem services’ and are broadly grouped into three types – provisioning, regulation and maintenance, and cultural. Food and raw materials are examples of provisioning services. Regulation and maintenance services include carbon sequestration and storage and supporting nursery habitats. Benefits to mental and physical health and recreation are examples of cultural services.

Nature-Based Solutions and MaCoBioS

Increasingly, people are turning to Nature-Based Solutions – actions that harness the power of nature to provide environmental, social and economic benefits – to help improve the health of marine and coastal ecosystems and address human impacts for the benefit of society. The development of Nature-Based Solutions for addressing societal challenges such as climate change, disaster risk reduction and food security presents opportunities for humans and nature, but it can also carry risks of failing to live up to promises and negatively impacting local communities when poorly designed or implemented.

MaCoBioS aims to address these risks by improving our understanding of Nature-Based Solutions, working with stakeholders to co-design theory and tools and help decision-makers and practitioners communicate and implement effective and considered NBS. Achieving this means incorporating societal values and expectations and taking into consideration local experiences and knowledge in science-informed solutions and policy guidance. Engaging with stakeholders and embedding them into MaCoBioS is therefore essential to ensure effective policy advice.

A stakeholder is any group, organisation or individual who has an interest in, can affect, or is affected by something. In the scope of MaCoBioS, this means stakeholders are those who:

  • make use of marine and coastal ecosystems (e.g., fishers, divers, etc.);
  • benefit from the services marine and coastal ecosystems provide (e.g., local communities benefiting from coastal protection);
  • have a direct role in the management of marine and coastal ecosystems or stressors that affect them (e.g., protected area managers, coastal managers); and/or
  • can influence the management of marine and coastal ecosystems through policies, legislation, funding, research, environmental education, etc. (e.g., policy-makers, universities, NGO).

We want to involve people representing these diverse stakeholder groups in MaCoBioS so that we can share information, learn from them, and identify and respond to their needs. In doing so, we aim to improve the robustness of our analyses and findings and ensure the relevance, social acceptability and legitimacy of our results and policy advice.

How you can get involved as a stakeholder

People can get involved in MaCoBioS through a variety of ways from learning about marine and coastal ecosystems, climate change and Nature-Based Solutions through to participating in our events. To facilitate this, we use a variety of engagement channels to communicate with and involve stakeholders meaningfully. Our website has a ‘News and Views’ section dedicated to all stakeholders where we share content that might be of interest and advertise engagement opportunities like surveys and events happening. We also carry out local engagement activities, such as interviews, focus groups, and workshops to facilitate in-depth knowledge exchange between MaCoBioS and key stakeholder groups, feeding into theory and tool development.

MaCoBioS approach to stakeholder engagement

You can read more about MaCoBioS by exploring our website and YouTube Channel. You can also get in touch with us by emailing, following us on Twitter and Instagram @MaCoBioS, or by registering with us for project updates and invitations to participate in our project direct to your inbox.

MaCoBioS is working across Northern Europe, the Western Mediterranean Sea and the Caribbean and we are particularly interested in hearing from and involving people from these regions, but we welcome input from everyone no matter who you are, or where you are from, live or work. We’d love to hear from you!

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